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20.09.2005 General News

Conference on food situation in West Africa

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Accra, Sept. 20, GNA - The Second Regional Outlook Conference on Agriculture and Food Trade Opportunities in the Sahel and West Africa opened in Accra on Tuesday.

The Conference seeks to evaluate the crop outlook and food situation, especially in countries characterised by difficult food situation either local or spread throughout the entire country like in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.

It is also to identify the zones most likely to be affected and the populations deemed vulnerable, subsequent to post-harvest periods and also the relief factions to be taken up. It would also list the potential areas likely to have surpluses and quantify the available food products to promote trade in agricultural produce in the sub-region. About 150 delegates from "Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel, CILSS" member countries, officials of the market information system, economic operators and international and sub-regional organisations intervening in food security are participating.

In an address, Dr Kofi Debrah, Chief of Party Co-ordinator at Networks of Regional Market Information Systems and Trader's Organisations in West Africa, (MISTOWA), said the sub-region was under a fragile agricultural environment and "the odds are stuck against us as we must strive to compete with others in more favourable environment in the global economy".

He said frequent reviews of the food and agricultural situation and intra-regional trade opportunities were important for creation of food and income security.

Dr Debrah emphasised the need to depend on accurate and timely information to guide producers, traders, policy makers and other stakeholders to assess the food situation and to mop-up contingency measures to reduce any possible effects of food shortages. He said timely information would also help in the movement of food and other agricultural produce from surplus to deficit areas or from one country to the other.

Dr Debrah noted that tariff and non-tariff barriers, poor produce quality, non-conformity to acceptable grades and standards, high transportation costs and border harassments had limited cross-border trade.

He urged the regional body ECOWAS, to provide a regional approach to policy and regulatory framework to enable the member countries to capture available economies of scale within the region.